Before I got involved in black tie challenges with hints of [innocent] mischief, I kicked off my recent "7 cities in 7 days" trip by disembarking my redeye flight from San Diego to NYC, taking a quick nap and then heading straight to speak and paint for the design students at NYC's top design fashion school - Fashion Institute of Technology(F.I.T) - I was tasked to discuss being a creative that focused on textiles and surviving. This kind of request I like!
I got there early to set up - here’re my basics: drop cloth, clothespins, brushes, and an apology in advance for the mess...
Where does one begin in a room full of our next generation of designers with the potential to change the world? It pleased me a lot to be able share with them a little bit about what I'd learned along the way to empower, inspire, and join them to be the best they can be to represent our design tribe.
First, I asked for forgiveness: I'd just came in on the redeye, and my eyelash was falling off.
Then I followed with a gift. Because gifting is part of my Japanese DNA. When we arrive somewhere for the first time or meet someone for the first time, often, it begins with a small salutation – a small gesture of good will. In Japanese, the words are “Haji me mashite” - it means “how do you do?” But literally, the words are “from this moment our relationship begins." Isn’t that beautiful? So of course, I started with giving everyone a small present: amethyst arrowheads, containing healing properties of fearlessness, courage and power. Not sure who on this planet does not need this extra magic, but as a creative I know I appreciate every bit of extra je n’est ce quoi.
"People think this is an easy path. It's actually not an easy path. Design and standing up for what you believe in is a very difficult path. So I have secret weapons. And this kind of stuff- healing rocks- is one of my secret weapons. I like to surround myself with little reminders to be fearless, strong, and to remind me I'm empowered to do what I want to do with regards to what I believe in terms of design. We all have magic within us; we all have light within
ourselves. As the new generation of designers, you also have a lot of responsibility.
"I celebrate the beauty of imperfection. What I tell those that ask what brought me here is that one simple thing: I believe in magic. My naive believing in magic has gotten me into this position of continuing to do things without fear. I really am not afraid of what's ahead of me, I just know I'm moving forward. The magic I believe in exists in the ability to communicate with people through art, design, color and aesthetic. I like things that are not exclusionary- I like things that are inclusionary. My designs are always seeds for thought: they redefine what beauty is, what textiles are and how textiles should be presented, whether in fashion or home."
"There are some words I want you to think about as you go out into the world and pass your magic- your light- on. That is that you have to do things together. You guys are all connected. You're all brothers and sisters. To help one another is the part that's magic. I can't do this alone, my company has not have grown by myself. I know what I'm good at, I know what I'm not good at. So that's one thing, is that helping someone and helping them to rise is free. It doesn't cost you anything. It only gives you good vibes. It only comes back to you 110x. Just like me and Rena actually. That's what I want you to remember, is that it's up to us to make the world a better place.
I invited students to come up and paint with me - isn't he completely adorable?
"The world doesn't need more pretty things. It has tons of pretty things. What the world needs is pretty things with intention. So I wanted to remind you guys, as young people, and as the new generation of designers, put things in the world that are sustainable, that are deliberate, that have thought, meaning, that represent culture, that represent your culture, that represent something you believe in. Once you believe in something, you'll sell it so easily. I believe in my
beauty of imperfection and connectivity. For me, that's one of the secrets that's given me the ability to come to this city not knowing anybody, but with just a portfolio and a small, tiny resume from these designers that allowed me to work for them and to build it into a brand."
"My brand has a catchphrase: deliberate luxury. That's what it's been for 15 years. I'm deliberate with my materials. I'm deliberate with my handwork. I'm deliberate with my message and my stories and my collection. I'm deliberate because I want people to stop and think. Most of my work is imperfect. I celebrate the beauty of imperfection. We have the ability to create this change.
Now let's paint!"
Stay tuned for Part Two of my FIT experience: an interview with Ms. Rena Sussman - a beautiful spirit who has followed my career since the beginning. If I had adesign tribe auntie she would be it.
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